Can we separate art from artist?

Sexual harassment allegations leave fans with tough questions

Greta Frontero, R2 Editor-in-Chief

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In recent weeks, Hollywood has become the hub of intense national controversy. It’s not a movie or a financial scandal that has the nation talking, but rather the ever-growing list of sexual harassment accusations targeting high-profile celebrities. In a time when household names—Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey, R. Kelly, Louis C.K. and Jeffrey Tambor, to name a few—are facing serious sexual harassment charges, a question arises: Can consumers separate the art from the artist?

Harvey Weinstein is a prime example of this controversy. An American film producer, Weinstein has been accused by 80 different women of inappropriate to criminal behavior, ranging from requests for massages to intimidating sexual advances to rape, according to an investigative piece published by The New York Times.

While Weinstein has denied the allegations, consumers of his popular movies, including Shakespeare in Love and Gangs of New York, are faced with a decision: to judge the movies based upon their cinematic quality or to take Weinstein’s alleged criminal activities into account.

WHS students are facing the same question. Some believe that an artist’s past actions “shouldn’t be a deciding factor on how people judge their art that’s made for entertainment,” in the words of senior Kaeley Hazard.

“If it was a crime, then yes he’s done something awful, but he’s still a professional and he’s still talented,” said Hazard, in reference to Weinstein. “If you see his movies, it doesn’t mean you support him or what he’s done.”

Other WHS students disagree with this mindset, such as senior Evie Miller, who believes that supporting the art of accused artists is a way of supporting their crimes.

“I feel like if you have a problem with what an artist did but you don’t have a problem with their art, then you’re going against what you stand for, and I kind of think that’s pathetic,” she said.

Miller added that sexual assault accusations “surpass the separation between the art and the artist.”

This makes for a delicate balance. “If you don’t like someone’s personality, it may not change how you see their art,” Miller said. “But I think things like sexual assault should absolutely change how you judge them and their work. It’s not something you can ignore.”

Members of the WHS fine arts department have opinions on this controversy as well. For instance, Mr. Roy Chambers said that the choice of whether or not to separate the art and the artist is a very difficult decision to make.

“You might have been supporting someone— their work as an artist, a filmmaker—and then you find out something about their character that’s negative,” he said, “and it’s a difficult reality to accept.”

The accusations against Allen, a famous American filmmaker, were especially difficult for Chambers. “I loved his films when I was younger, and then having found out these accusations made against him, I began to think about his character and his films differently,” he said. “I don’t have the same enthusiasm for his work that I previously did.”

Despite this controversy, Chambers said he will remain optimistic about the future of Hollywood and the art industry. He said, “These people need to understand that there are repercussions to their actions, and I believe that over time positive change will come from this.”